During the pregnancy of our first child, my wife passed on an article she received from her best friend. It was story of a man who felt completely out of shape for what was to come in fatherhood.
I remember reading the article and having a laugh. I didn’t study it, or take it to heart. That was a MISTAKE!
Having a kid (especially your first) can be as physically grueling as it is mentally. Seriously. You will use muscles you never knew you had (or needed). Yes, our wives have it WAY worse when it comes to child birth – there will never be any debate in that from me. But let me tell you, Dad’s need to shape up too!
Here are my Top 10 Tips for getting your body “baby ready”!
We learn them in elementary school gym class. Learn them again. You will bend over at the waist, approximately 7,654,263,296,654.83 times each day.
Think you have all the pieces of laundry in your hands? Nope – turn around and pick up that face cloth. You got the baby quiet – finally. Now, let’s go to the bedroom. Oops, you just dropped the pacifier and she’s waking up! Bend over and pick it up, ninja style! You just stepped on some Duplos (insert Wilhelm Scream) – guess what you’re doing after the searing pain goes away… bending over and picking them up.
See where I’m going with this? You will be doing a lot of bending!
I don’t know how Moms do it. They have this way of holding their kid so that the kid has their legs over the Mom’s hips and they can stay there for hours. For us? It’s all in our arms.
You may think you have some serious bicep power, but think of this as the beer stein challenge. However, instead of holding a glass of beer for as long as you can before putting it down, you’re holding a squirming child who you will NEVER be able to put down.
Practice doing most everyday life skills with one arm tied behind your back. Go ahead, try it right now. Type on your keyboard (try capitalizing words). Read a book (with turning pages). Cook dinner. Use the bathroom…
Now envision that un-used arm has a bag of cobras in it. That’s holding your kid (who, if they are needing to be held, aren’t usually in the best of moods) while still trying to work through your day. The TV and Movies version of simply placing your baby in the pack-and-play to quietly coo away while you do your tasks, is a myth.
Work Your Core
Along with the constant bending over and holding an oil-slicked sack of potatoes in your arms, you’ll be twisting in directions you didn’t know possible.
The core will strengthen all the things above. If you can have a strong core, it will make the toe touches, arm curls and one-armed living a lot easier. If not, stock up on some Tylenol before Junior arrives.
Stop Sleeping In
People always comment about how new parents never get to sleep. Hate to break it to you, it doesn’t stop at ‘new’ parents. Kids are natural alarm clocks and guess what, they’re not usually content sitting in their bed for an hour chilling by themselves while you try to sleep until your usual wake up time. If they’re up – you’re up. And they’re up a lot!
So, start training yourself now. Go ahead and stay up to watch Brett Gardner win the Yankees game with a walk-off in extra innings, but still get up at normal time…. the kids will.
You may ask: well, how about a nice lazy Sunday morning? No. Come on. Haven’t you been listening? Kids wake up at the same time every day that ends in Y. If you practice now, it won’t hurt as much after you’re doing it for someone else.
Get your calves and hamstrings in good order, you’re going to use them – a lot!
Think about your daily routines. Going up and down the stairs to do laundry? You’ll be doing it with the basket in one hand and a kid in the other. Use your legs. The act of getting out of your chair – notice how you use your legs? You’ll be doing this a LOT. I estimate that I get up from the dinner table (Can I have more water? More peas please. I need a napkin. I dropped my fork. Ooopssss) about 23 times each night.
Having a kid is both a sprint and a marathon. You’re ON all day long (and some of the night, too). Your lungs and muscles must be ready.
If you start to chase them, play hide and seek, help them up and down the slide, splash in puddles, chase seagulls on the beach, etc etc etc…. they won’t stop – thus – neither can you.
And then there’s this little chestnut – kids often like going for walks in the stroller. If they fall asleep in the stroller, you CAN NOT STOP. They will wake up. You MUST keep going. The Steps app on your phone will love it. Just make sure you stay in a circle pattern, you don’t want to end up 10 miles away from home by the time they wake up.
Take Care of Your Knees
You’ll be kneeling a lot.
Tying shoes. Bath time. Zipping up jackets. “Sitting” at their kiddie craft table…
And don’t stop. Any time you have a moment, stretch some more.
Your body is going to go through a lot of punishment so you have to be ready. Your back, torso, legs, shoulders, neck and more – the more you stretch them, the more they’ll be there for you when you need them.
Strengthen Your Heart and Soul
My last tip is to remember that everything above is for the best reason in the world – you get to be a Dad.
You’ll be more flexible to bend down – easier to tickle or tuck in to bed with a kiss. Your arms will be stronger, better for hugs that leave a memory. Your legs will be more powerful, the giggles from your child as you chase them is like rocket fuel for your heart. Your knees will be steady, allowing you to kneel down and look them in the eyes when they are scared and assure them everything is ok. You get to be the first face your child sees in the morning and the last one at night.
We won’t get to be there always – but when we are, we owe it to them to be the best version of us that we can be – body, soul and mind!